Entering the final stretch

In a sense I have been preparing for Battle for Azeroth now for the last month or so, but I feel like as of maybe yesterday I am starting the final sprint. In my part of the country, the expansion will launch at 6 PM on Monday August 13, part of Blizz’s planet-wide simultaneous launch. That probably means we are only about a month away from Patch 8.0, the pre-launch patch. (One wonders if Blizz will give their live launch plan a dry run by also doing a simultaneous launch of 8.0.)

I was reminded of this ever-shortening timeline by a guild Discord discussion a couple days ago. Though it pains me to say it, a couple of our guildies are actually far more diligent and meticulous organizers than I am. And if you are a regular reader, you know that is going some. Anyway, these guildies posted their very extensive spreadsheets as an example of how they keep track of achievements, alt progress, addons, and so forth. Let me tell you, I was not only impressed but ashamed at the realization that I am a slacker! I have gotten lazy in this expansion, clearly.

Well, no more. Today I will get serious about what I now realize is the final sprint towards BfA. In fact, in the past I have felt a flat spreadsheet does not give me the kind of data I need at my fingertips, so I have put together relational databases to better serve my needs. I will probably do that this time, too. Yeah, that’s right, I’m bad! I will see your puny spreadsheets, Smugly Organized Guildies, and I will raise you a relational database! *drops mic*

(Okay, enough of the nerd trash talk. For now. 🤓)

As part of preparation for BfA, I am still wrestling with the idea of changing my main. I remain doubtful that I actually will follow through on the idea, but I have really been exploring a couple of alternatives, mainly by playing different classes/specs at a level beyond casual key-mashing. Specifically, I am seriously considering resto/balance druid, some flavor of mage, and mistweaver/windwalker monk. Less seriously, demonology warlock, though I have not done any Legion prep for this possibility.

My dilemma is somewhat complicated by the fact that currently — and likely for the foreseeable future — our guild raid team has a lot of healers and melee dps, making it harder to fit in another of those roles. The guild is very good about adapting to the classes of the players that are on the team, but eventually there are limits. Whereas if there are a lot of melee damage dealers the raid leader might be able to devise boss tactics to compensate for that, there is nothing that can be done if there are 6 healers for a raid of 20-25 — someone will have to switch specs. So that is a consideration for me, too, since I want to continue raiding with this team. This could end up self-limiting my options to hunter, balance druid with resto off spec, or mage. Gotta think about it some more.

Last night, though, I got a nice bonus result from prepping one of my alts. I have lately been working on my monk, because I find I really like the MW healing play style. Trying to gear my monk up a bit more as well as get more proficient at healing, I have been running some of our alt raids and also some LFR. However, I have stayed away from instance healing, mainly because I have absolutely no confidence in my ability to be the sole healer for a group and a tank.

But last night I swallowed my fear and ran 5 Timewalker dungeons as a MW monk. It was both exhilarating and liberating, not to mention I learned some cool emergency tricks for snatching an almost-dead player from the jaws of death. I came away from the experience with a ton more confidence that I had going in, and I may have actually finally overcome my phobia about instance healing. Woohoo!

Of course, no night of running with random groups would be complete without a head-slapping story. In the third TW I ran, Vortex Pinnacle, I was having an exceptionally hard time keeping the tank healed up. He looked like he was adequately equipped and specc’ed, and he seemed to be doing the right things, but as soon as we got into combat of any length his health took a big dip and kept going down unless I pretty much healed him alone and took care of the rest of the party with just AoE. Finally I said in chat, “Tank, idk why ur health keeps taking such big hits.” His reply, “I usually take my shield off in extended combat.” And sure enough, when I inspected him during the next round of combat, no shield. 🤯 (As one guildie noted when I told the story in guild chat, “Yeah, the shield is just for aggro. Healer aggro!”)

The announcement yesterday that the new PTR build will allow character transfers was a very welcome one for me. It means I will be able to further refine my alt/main options in a realistic environment. (It would be more helpful if we could have addons, but I guess we should not expect too much.)

And now, on to database creation!

The real Q&A

Despite my snarkiness in my last post, I thought the Q&A yesterday was relatively informative. There was surprisingly quite a lot of what I think of as “real” information as opposed to the kind of blather that is nothing more than an infomercial. If you have an hour with nothing else to do, check out the video yourself either directly on Twitch or via MMO-C here. With that, let me get started on my observations.

PTR is now live. The first announcement was a bit of great news — the PTR is now live for Patch 8.0. That is, now anyone can go up on the PTR and experience the pre-expansion patch, which as usual will contain everything new in BfA (stat squish, new profession system, War Mode, class changes, pre-expansion event scenario, etc.) except for the new zones and content-specific quests. I did not get a chance to check out the PTR yesterday after the Q&A, so I don’t have any firsthand information on it yet, but if you have specific questions I recommend you step in and give it a spin.

When 8.0 does go live (I am guessing in about a month), there will be a few things that have to be adjustment for you. For example, the tier and legendary bonuses will still work, but not the artifact actives. So if you are, say, a BM hunter, and have gotten used to working Titan’s Thunder into your rotation, that will be gone. Same with all the active artifact spells such as Sheilun’s Gift for mistweaver monks and the totally awesome New Moon for balance druids. (Seriously, what is cooler than dropping a moon on the head of your enemy?) Some of these have gone baseline for a few specs, but generally they are compensated for in other, mostly passive, ways.

Flying in BfA. Look for the BfA Pathfinder requirements to be pretty much the same as they were for Legion. Translation: No chance of getting flying until probably sometime around March 2019 at the earliest. Blizz will again gate the requirements behind faction rep, doing a certain number of world quests, and exploration of every nook and cranny of all the new zones, as well as withhold the final Pathfinder parts until a certain patch (8.2??).

Recall that Blizz started the whole Pathfinder mechanism back in WoD, when they were forced to back off their disastrous announcement that there would henceforward never be flying in any new zones. There was such a backlash over that, that they had to hurriedly come up with some way to put off WoD flying while they scrambled to make the zones flyable. So they invented the Pathfinder quest line, along with gates designed to ensure no one would get the ability before Blizz wanted them to.

I don’t actually mind the Pathfinder questlines, by the way, but my point here is that if you are leveling a new character that is not part of an account where one character has already unlocked flying, you must still do the Pathfinder quests for every zone they exist in. That means, in theory, that 5 years from now you will still have to unlock all the rep, exploration, and so forth in Draenor, in Broken Isles, in Battle for Azeroth, and in all expansions up to whichever one is current if you want to be able to fly in those zones.

Thus, an interesting question in the Q&A was, will Blizz stop requiring Pathfinder for older expansion zones such as WoD? Ion, as is his wont, punted on the answer, giving his usual not-at-this-time-but-maybe-sometime-in-the-future-soon™-we-might-start-to-think-about-it. Just my opinion, but I suspect by the expansion after BfA we will start to see Pathfinder going away in the earlier zones like WoD and Legion.

There was, however, a good bit of dissembling going on with Ion’s answer. He bleated on and on about not wanting to “devalue the effort” of completing Pathfinder in every expansion, and that “Draenor was designed for ground-based leveling so you don;t need flying to level there”. Well, yeah. But come on Ion, why not admit that the real answer is that for some reason you have decided that leveling should take a lot longer than it used to (do I smell MAU metrics here?), and allowing flying in a shorter time would not serve that goal.

Class Balance. Bottom line is, what you see on the PTR is largely what you will get for your class and spec. There are very few large changes planned at this point. Blizz is aware of some problems but will address them either by numbers tweaks between now and August 14 or leave those changes for 8.1.

After listening to Ion on this, I remain concerned that Blizz is rather deliberately making winner and loser classes, especially when it comes to raid and group utility. They keep blathering on about how they want each class to “feel special”, yet only a few classes are “special” enough to always be sought out for groups. That is, only a few classes have truly unique utilities — such as battle rez or innervate — and many other classes either have nothing or some lesser version of the sought-after utilities. When this trend is combined with Ion’s fixation on the idea that some classes should be sought after for certain fights (bring the class not the player), it does not bode well for the also-ran classes. Unfortunately for me, I think hunters are one of those. Ion can say all he wants about fitting your strategy to your team, but the reality is that, once there has been a “school solution” to certain fights, it will be well-nigh impossible for classes who are not part of that solution to find pugs willing to take them.

What this means, I think, is choose your main class and spec with care for BfA. If you love playing a certain one and don’t care that it may not be one of the favored ones, go for it. On the other hand, if high numbers, lively play style, and being able to easily get into groups are important factors for you, then spend some time figuring out which classes/specs will do that for you in BfA — it may not end up being your current main.

On the plus side, I was heartened to hear that Blizz understands they went too far with spec identity in Legion, and they want to return to overall class identity. Whether they will achieve this goal or not remains to be seen.

War mode. This new world PvP system is part of patch 8.0. The basics are that there will be no more PvP or PvE servers, there will only be Normal and RP ones. On all servers, you can toggle PvP mode on while in your faction capital city. When you do so, you will be transferred to a shard where everyone has also toggled PvP mode, thus making your location a PvP sever. The difference between RP and PvE servers is that currently RP servers do not involuntarily transfer players to other shards (except in extreme overload situations), so as to keep group integrity better for RP purposes. In 8.0, if you toggle War Mode on an RP server, you will stay on your own shard from your RP server. If you join a group, the group will join your shard, you will not be involuntarily transferred to a different one.

I was pleased to hear Ion explain a bit more about the perks awarded for doing War Mode in patch 8.0. Basically, players in War Mode will earn slightly more gold from world quests, and if they are leveling they will get fast xp than in PvE mode. Ion commented that the reason for this is that PvP players often get forcibly diverted from questing, and the extra gold and xp is a way to compensate for that. Ion said the team is paying a lot of attention to balancing this — they want to make sure PvP is not unduly punishing players who choose it, while at the same time they absolutely do not want the bonuses to be so lucrative as to make PvE players feel pushed into PvP.

Mythic Raiding. Who cares, really. BfA will implement some world ranking system that should result in cross-realm mythic raiding being unlocked sooner. Whoopee. 🙄

Mythic+ Dungeons. For me, another who-cares item. Players will not be able to switch out gear in BfA M+ dungeons, what they start with is what they will use for each. But the interesting takeaway for me from this whole M+ Q&A discussion is the sheer number of changes and “anti-exploit” measures being put into place in BfA for M+. This only means that these are going to be a major esports venue for WoW as we go forward, since nearly all the changes are targeted towards high-end min-maxxers.

Catch-up AP in BfA. There will be one, just as there was one for AP in Legion. Interestingly, in BfA Blizz is reversing the approach. In Legion, the amount of AP required to buy more artifact upgrades increased exponentially, and the catch-up mechanism was that you could earn geometrically-increasing amounts in order to get that AP. In BfA, you will earn Azerite at a constant rate, but the cost of the gear traits will go down periodically. Both systems work for catch-up, but the BfA method means we will not be faced with ridiculously high numbers for traits (over a trillion AP for some people with high artifact levels.)

Anyway, that was it for the Q&A. (There was some more PvP stuff but I pretty much tuned that out.) I think in general it was a decent hour. One of the most positive big takeaways for me is that I am beginning to believe Blizz is sensitive to the grindiness and tedium many of us disliked in Legion, and they do seem to be taking some steps to make that less of an issue.

And with that long, wordy post, let the weekend begin. See you on the other side.

I am NOT prepared

Panic buttonIn guild talk last night, someone pointed out it is 10 weeks until Battle for Azeroth goes live. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but when I began to mentally list the things I want to get done before then, my brain began to yammer, “Sound General Quarters! AWOOOOGA! AWOOOOGA!”

BfA release in 10 weeks means we will likely see the pre-expansion patch about a month before the new expansion, or 6 weeks from now. For me, the pre-expansion patch is the effective end of the current expansion, because that is when I make the adjustments to become familiar with the class changes — change out WeakAuras as necessary, take a look at the numbers behind secondary stats, and spend time at the target dummies to develop some new muscle memory. Then I follow this with a few LFR or guild runs through some of the raid tiers to be fairly proficient when the new expansion drops.

But before I start this whole process, I like to feel each of my characters is as caught up in the game as possible. That usually means:

  • Banks and bags are cleaned out and tidied
  • Professions are maxed
  • Gear level is as high as possible for as much as I play each one
  • The spec is the one I expect to level with in the next expansion
  • Any important achievements are done (example in Legion: class mount)

As you might imagine, while this list is not very long, it has a lot of what we used to call “implied missions” for each item. For example, to know which spec I want to level with for each character, I need to do some research to get a few hints about what might be the most fun and/or “best” spec in BfA. That will include some reading as well as a few beta (or soon PTR) test runs in order to decide. Maxing professions would seem to be straightforward, but it almost always involves switching a few around, and of course it takes time to level these new ones up. That is if I decide to level them up — they can still take full part in BfA professions without leveling them up now.

Cleaning out bags and banks is nothing more than tedious. Usually I do not do it far enough in advance to make any real gold in the auction house, what with everyone else cleaning out their stuff, too. So it generally involves a lot of vendoring and mailing around. The mailing occurs when I decide which alt should be the main keeper of whatever mats I decide to save. Sometimes it is obvious, other times not so much. My main hunter is a LW/skinner, but honestly she has so much other junk in her bank that it is not feasible for her to keep all the current leather along with stocks of classic leathers that come in handy. So those go to my bank alt.

I would really love to see an account-wide shared bank tab in this game, but it does not look like it is in the cards any time soon. It would save so much tedious busywork. You would not, of course, be able to put soulbound items in there, but everything else would be so great to have access to by everyone. And while I am on the subject, it seems like it is time to end the small-guild restrictions on bank tabs. (I am talking about the single-member guilds many of us have just for our bank alt.) Why not allow more tabs for these guilds — go ahead and charge the same as for regular guild additional tabs? I suspect it has something to do with meta-storage in the servers, but still it would go a long ways to improving quality of life for many players.

Of course, the other big thing I still need to do is decide what my main will be in BfA. In all likelihood I will end up still as a BM hunter, but for the first time ever I am seriously considering a class switch for main. At this point I have narrowed it down to druid (balance/resto), monk (windwalker/mistweaver), or mage (pick a spec). While WW monk is fantastically fun to play in BfA, our guild already has too many melee raiders, and in the final analysis I really prefer ranged play. I have not looked into MW monk for BfA, so I do not know if that would be a decent raid option if I went with monk as a main.

I really enjoy resto druid play — the mobility strikes me as sort of a hunter style, which I like. But I am not sure about Balance changes in BfA — the one thing I have always hated about them is the excruciatingly long cast times for most spells, combined with the wimpiness of the small number of instant casts. Clearly, more research is needed on my part.

My mage — well, I have got her to artifact level 75 in all specs, and I find each of them engaging to play, though I would say fire is far and above my favorite, followed by frost, with arcane a somewhat distant third. At least in Legion, both fire and frost have quite a lot of mobility, but I have not rolled a mage in the beta yet, so I have no clue what may change, if anything. (My bet is no major changes, since it is well known that Blizz loves mages best!)

Still, if I had to bet, I would bet I will keep my hunter main for BfA. It is, after all, the class I love best in the game and the one I have loved ever since I started to play. But it doesn’t hurt to at least consider a different path.

So, while it may not be quite time yet to push the panic button, my finger is definitely hovering over it. We rally have only about 6 more weeks of Legion left before 8.0 is released. At that point for all practical purposes we will have begun Battle for Azeroth. So much to do, so little time!

Battle for Azeroth insights

With Pax East concluding a few days ago, we who did not attend are just now getting some of the pertinent WoW-related interviews, and those of us in disfavor with Blizz who do not have a ticket to play the BfA alpha are getting a better look at the next expansion. The interview videos are spread out on the internet, but for one place to start check out MMO-C’s summaries. As I listened to these interviews, I think I began to get an idea of the “feel” of BfA — the things that will shape the expansion experience for me. Honestly, they do not make me any more excited about it.

First, the introduction of Warfronts and Island Expeditions. Warfronts, from what I understand, are large (multi-day?) competitions between Horde and Alliance, resulting in control of an area and presumably the chance then to plunder the Azerite and other resources in the area. One dev compared the concept to Wintergrasp. The same dev made the point that each side will have to have strong team cooperation to be successful. I don’t know that this has ever worked well in WoW on a mass basis. Players who do a lot of PvP are good at these events, but opening them up to — end encouraging participation from — the Great Unwashed Masses is usually an exercise in futility. People run around with no idea of what to do or where to go, or they join and then hide somewhere and go afk until the event is over, all while the people who really want to win and know what they are doing yell things like “EVERYONE GET TO THE KEEP!” Eventually the side with the most people paying attention wins. Yay.

Warfronts will in theory require “contributions” from players. One of the devs opined that possibly this might include not just fighting participation but also materials and profession products. This part sounds a bit like the buildings on Broken Shore to me. Honestly, if the contributions to those had involved actual gathered profession mats instead of the Legionfall War Supplies — which could not be spent in any other way, and which I accumulated as part of world quests in the area rather than going out of my way to gather — I would never have bothered to contribute.

My suspicion is that Warfronts will get some heavy participation in the very beginning of BfA but will soon become nothing more for most people than checking to see “who controls ((Wintergrasp-equivalent area))” to see if you can get in and grab up the azerite or whatever perk is there.

Island Expeditions seem patterned on the old Mists scenarios, an activity I rather enjoyed. However, the main reason I enjoyed them was that they awarded currency for decent gear, plus they were very quick to run and the queues were almost instantaneous. I do not know what the inducement is for running Island Expeditions in BfA, but it will need to be something solid and dependable (NOT an RNG-based shot at mediocre gear) for me to be interested. I do not know if there is a timed element to Islands, but if so that will greatly diminish their attraction for me, too.

The second thing that got my notice was some of the talk about BfA gear. In a couple of the interviews there was discussion of trinkets. Apparently the dev team likes the idea of trinkets having one-off abilities as well as interacting with class/spec talents and abilities. This tells me two things. One is that we can look forward to another entire expansion of carrying around or storing dozens of trinkets because who knows when one will be “THE” one to have for a specific encounter. The other thing this tells me is that there will be certain “must have” trinkets for some specs, because it is guaranteed that Blizz will use a trinket to fill in some gaping holes in spec design, the same way they did with legendaries in Legion. So you will have to have a certain trinket to play your spec the way it should be played, but of course it is a crap shoot as to whether you get the trinket or not. Wunderbar.

In BfA, Blizz also seems to be getting rid of some possibilities for casual players. For one thing, they are rather drastically reducing the rate at which items will Titanforge. I suppose this is because a few elite-snobs whined loudly about that “LFR scrub” who actually had one piece of gear equal to the level the Great Player had. Also, in BfA Blizz will limit the level of the key Azerite gear to the level at which it was earned, there will be NO Titanforging for this gear. Thus, the Mythic pros will never have to suffer the unimaginable indignity of a lesser being actually *gasp* having an equal level gear item — a severe trauma, I am sure we can all agree.

It seems, though, that the Azerite gear will entail the same kind of endless grind that artifact weapons required in Legion. Instead of chasing AP, substitute Azerite. Otherwise, same-same. Also, it would seem that the Azerite gear is in fact spec-specific, so once again switching specs will be a Big Fucking Deal, and if you are unlucky enough to pick a losing spec at the beginning of the expansion, sucks to be you, you could be playing catch-up for a long time.

Last, there was dev discussion of group composition as it interrelates to raid and instance design and class/spec design. Although Blizz clearly understands many of the implications of this complex design problem, I remain skeptical that they have either the ability or the desire to really give every class a decent opportunity for full participation. In terms of spec design, BfA seems to be going further down the road of actual specialization, so that any given spec has niche abilities such as AoE, burst, single target, mobility, and so forth. At the same time, they seem to be curtailing the ability to select talents to compensate for niche abilities, so that for example if you are a single target spec you have almost no significant talent choice to substitute anything other than a very puny AoE.

Similarly, while Blizz has renewed their emphasis on raid buffs, they have created real winner and loser specs in terms of the value and/or widespread usefulness of these buffs. And the buff pruning in the name of “uniqueness” is a joke. Hunters, for example, had their pet combat rez removed (supposedly because other classes have that ability), yet what remains is a form of Hero, which many other classes also have. How is that unique? This puts the lie to all the blather about “making each class feel special and unique”. Trust me, having a buff that several other classes have does not make me “special and unique”. Now, if I had, say Aspect of the Fox or something similar, that would be a real “special and unique” contribution. But of course Blizz panicked for the entire month or however long they permitted us to have Aspect of the Fox, because OMG hunters had an actual decent raid buff????? Somebody screwed up! Must. Fix. Immediately.

All this is intertwined with raid design, of course. And nothing in any of these interviews gave me confidence that most bosses will be designed to allow every class a chance to excel. One of the devs even went so far as to put a stamp of approval on raid-loading by saying that it was a good thing if, having gotten close to a boss kill, a team realized that only one class could give them that extra 2% and they reconfigured to include it. This, of course, goes further down the road Blizz has recently taken, where “Bring the class, not the player” is desirable.

BfA will once again bring us winner classes and loser classes, and it looks like Blizz does not care that that will be the case. In fact, they seem to like the idea. Get your class lottery tickets here, folks.

Okay, enough pessimism about BfA. Time for a weekend. We are finally getting some warm weather here in Virginia, and I need to paint a few old wood pallets for planter walls and such. And maybe drink a cold beer, it being almost hot today.

Alcohol and spray paint, what could possibly go wrong?

See you on the other side.

Alt raiding

Last night our guild did an alt run of Heroic Antorus the Burning Throne. We have been running normal for alt runs, but several people have got their “main alts” to a level where that is not really challenging any more. We set an ilevel requirement of 920 and ended up with something like 15 people. We made it as far as Kin’garoth fairly easily, but wiped repeatedly on him and called it for the night. That boss is really a DPS check (how fast you can down the adds) for the remainder of the raid, a sort of gateway to the hardest final bosses. But all in all it was a fun night, and we got further than I expected.

From a personal standpoint, I did get two tier upgrades on my druid — yay! But my healing was not much more than adequate, and it was only afterwards that I discovered a huge mistake in my keybind setup. Not necessary to go into details, but the result was that what I thought was my keybind for Nature’s Cure was in fact a dupe of my keybind for combat rez. Oops. No wonder I ended up with no debuff dispels on Imonar…. And that pretty much explains why the other two healers were hollering theirs were on cooldown, and for me to cast mine. I kept saying mine was also on cool down, because when I hit the key nothing happened (of course), so I just assumed that was the case. Not one of my finer moments. 🤭 Still, I am learning better techniques for conserving mana and for anticipating damage cycles, so I suppose it was a net learning experience. (Just don’t tell my GM about my faux pas!)

We will still do our Friday night normal alt raids, and at this point I am considering signing my void elf mage up for those, as there really is not anything loot-wise I need from normal for my druid. And heaven knows, I can use the practice on my mage. I expect the first couple of times I will embarrass myself with disgustingly low damage numbers, but hopefully I will improve in fairly short order. I know the DPS fights, it’s just a matter of figuring out how best to do my mage-y stuff for each one.

In truth, I am a tad conflicted about these alt raids. On the one hand, I almost invariably have fun doing them, and I enjoy figuring out how different classes need to interact in the fights. In the long run, I think it makes me a better raider because it gives me a broader perspective and ultimately better raid sense. On the other hand, I am kind of burned out on raiding, and going back to a 2-night per week “schedule” is a bit daunting, especially the heroic runs because I am still really stressed when I heal. But on the third (?) hand, we have four months left yet until BfA, so it is good to have a fun guild-sponsored way to really explore the advantages and disadvantages of my various alt classes and specs.

Plus, there is always alcohol to lessen the healing stress or to add to the Friday night party atmosphere. (🤫) And there is no “requirement” to participate in alt runs, like there is during the regular progression season. Sign up or don’t, whatever you want.

Okay, I talked myself into it.

Now maybe I should figure out which other alts I would like to run through the normal raids. It might be a good way to get an idea of another spec I might want to main in BfA since BM hunters continue to look like a lousy bet.

Yes, I know, I am probably deluding myself with talk of maining another spec in BfA, but I am trying to humor myself. Even given the terrible state of BM hunters now and likely for the entire new expansion, truth be told I am not sure I would ever be able to give up a hunter main. What is more likely is that I will kick dirt and grumble to myself and end up selecting either MM or SV for BfA. Okay, maybe not SV, as I really, really hate that it is melee, plus I am still stinging over the shabby way Blizz yanked this spec out from under me in WoD. Never say never, but I am still of the opinion that it will be a cold damn day in hell when I do melee SV except as a lark. Yes, I am obstinate. (Please feel free to taunt me with this statement if I end up going SV in the next expansion…)

Maybe I will buck the trend and try to do MM, even in raids, with a pet. From what I am reading so far, I doubt doing so will yield worse numbers than BM will. Except for Blizz skewing the numbers to strongly encourage MM hunters to go petless, the spec does seem like it will be engaging to play in BfA, especially with the changes that give it more mobility, along with active focus regeneration, and some decent procs. So far, MM is my  Plan B for BfA (a decent BM being Plan A, but this is looking more and more unlikely). But that does not mean I am not working on Plan C and even Plan D.

Hmmm, another idea for fun with alt runs — switch hunter specs and run as MM or even *shudder* SV….. Just as alts, mind you, not as a real hunter! Plus, I have all the legendaries for both specs.

Definitely worth considering.

Scatterbrained

There is at once so much and so little going on with WoW these days that I am finding it challenging to come up with topics for this blog. The “so much going on” is all quite a ways out yet, and the stuff we are dealing with in Legion now is unfortunately in the “so little going on” bucket. Thus, some extremely scattered thoughts I had over the weekend.

User interfaces. I know I will get some blowback on this, but in my opinion Blizz pretty much stinks at user interfaces in the game. They seem to be easily satisfied with the kind of interface only an elderly software engineer could love — clunky and non-intuitive but adequate to get at the guts of the game. Over the years, I will admit, they have tended to improve some of the more egregious clunkers, but there are a lot left.

Take the bag structure. It used to resemble my Aunt Dorothy’s huge purse — stuffed with everything she had accumulated over years, and none of it could be found without a lot of rummaging. Then a few years ago, Blizz gave us the “organizer” option for bags. That is a laugh. Honestly, I have never been able to figure out what principle they use to determine what item is in what category, you only get the categories Blizz wants to give you, there is no reasonable solution for overflow items, and you are stuck with Blizz’s idea of what “tidy” means if you decide to tidy them up. It is so lousy that they had to amend it a while back and add a feature that made recently-added items glow. Not a bad feature, I will grant you, but it is fickle and annoying if you have looked in your bag to find the new loot you just got, then close it to offer the item up for raffle — when you open the bag again to find the item for trade, it has suddenly lost its glow and you are left to search for it for a long time while the raid leaves both you and your recipient far behind.

Part of why Blizz is so lazy with their interfaces, I think, is because they have the luxury of a large community of addon writers that willingly fix the slipshod Blizz work. For years now, I have used an addon called ArkInventory for my bags (there are several good ones out there), and it has become one of the ones I almost cannot live without, right up there alongside WeakAuras and Bartender 4. It allows me to set up my own categories along with Blizz’s, it lets me see what category Blizz thinks an item is in, and if I don’t like  it I can redesignate the item’s category to another one of theirs or to one I have made up. I can also see my bag as one gigantic storage area and designate areas for each category. (Can apply this to your bank as well, and even to a guild bank if you want because it does not affect the actual way items are stored just how they appear to you.) Each area has a title, for example, “Food”, “Cooking mats”, “Pet Shit”, “Other spec gear”, even a separate one for “Trinkets” so I can easily see the ones I have. I also keep all my legendaries in a separate bin to rapidly sift through them, along with something I call “Gear I Need” to keep the various pieces I rotate as I change out tier and legendaries.

Yeah, the OCD organizer in me loves this app. Blizz could give us the same thing — clearly the capability is there in the code — but they don’t have to make an elegant interface because someone else does it for them.

Another trauma overcome. Many years ago, when I rolled my druid, I decided she would be primarily a healer. I was drawn to the idea that druids can fulfill any role in the game, including either ranged or melee damage dealers. I was about level 60 or 62 when I attempted to heal my first pug dungeon. (Drak’Tharon Keep) I really had zero idea what I was doing, but hey I had healed myself while leveling, puttered around in a couple battlegrounds, and even thrown a few heals at some players who happened to be on the same quest I was on out in the world. How hard could it be?

HAHAHA. It was a disaster. We wiped on the first set of trash in that long hall, and I was immediately kicked, but not before everyone had thrown some well-deserved insults at me. I had failed to grasp the HoT concept for druid healing, thought when someone got low on health I could throw out a heal and be good. These days I laugh at such experiences, but back then I took them very seriously, so seriously in fact that I did not attempt druid healing again for years. When I did, I took care to always be in a raid with other healers, so that I would not have sole responsibility for the group’s survival. Even as I became proficient at druid healing, the 5-man phobia remained.

Until last night. I took a deep breath and queued as a healer for a Timewalker dungeon. My hands were clammy, my heart rate was through the roof, and I was laser focused on every tiny health point for everyone.

Pfffffft. It was a piece of cake. I got through five of them easily. I don’t know what I was worried about. In fact, TW dungeons are so easy to heal I found I had a lot of time for dealing some of my puny damage as well. Another huge dragon built up in my mind was in fact a tiny cute kitty… 😂

LFR. (A never-ending source of blog material) I ran a few LFRs over the weekend, on my void elf mage and my druid. These things really are a study in psychology. In fact, there is someone in my guild who has 12-14 alts and actually loves running LFR on them every week. She is fascinated by the various group dynamics she encounters. Yeah, I know, right, go figure… I am pretty sure I could never go to that extreme on LFR, but it is still interesting to me how vastly different the group experience can be every time. One time you can get a sober, mature group that is helpful to newbies and very patient, and the next group can be toxic and completely dysfunctional.

The LFR queue process, though, is another example of a user interface that Blizz could really stand to improve. I understand it is not simple to do, but there are some really annoying things about it. The one over the weekend that annoyed me was the idea that you can be put into a group in the middle of a raid wing, maybe even for just the last boss in that wing. I understand this has to happen because of course players will drop out at any point in the raid and they need to be backfilled. It is frustrating to have waited for 10-15 minutes to get into a raid, only to only have a shot at the last boss and then get to queue all over again for the same wing. Once recently, that happened to me, and when I requeued I got put into a raid that was on the second of the 3 bosses, so I got to requeue yet one more time! At the very least, Blizz could put you at the head of the queue if that happens to you, and maybe even do some sort of check to make sure you get in on the first boss if you have to requeue.

Last, in what may be the least exciting news lately, Blizzcon 2018 tickets are going on sale shortly. (Yawn) For WoW players, this year’s event is likely to be a real snoozer, since BfA will have already launched months before. I suppose it may come at a handy time to hype the first BfA patch — and possibly a new raid tier — but that is about it. There are a few rumors that there may be an announcement of a Warcraft III remaster, but otherwise the focus will likely be on other Blizz IPs. The virtual tickets will go on sale later this summer, but I think the only way I will be interested is if there is significant inducement in the form of a really cool mount or something (like they did for Blizzcon 2017).

That’s it for this rather boring Monday.

Looking towards summer

Now that it is officially spring, and the birds are tweeting and the trees are budding and the flowers are blooming and we are in the middle of another freaking snow storm (🤬), it’s time to start thinking about how I will spend my summer in WoW.

Snow, spring 2018

Actual photo taken this morning

Last night was our last official raid night until next expansion, and I think we were all more than ready to end the season. We didn’t even do a full clear, just the first boss then skipped to the last two in order to get the mount for a couple of people who had not yet gotten it and still wanted it. It was not our best effort, nor was it our worst, it just — was. Notable only because it was the last for Legion. We have an active guild, and we will continue to do weekly alt raids and such, but they are really just for funsies, a chance to take some of our mothballed alts out and check out how badly we stink on them, as well as engage in some mostly well-intentioned trash talk.

Now, of course, everyone will have to decide how to fill game time until what will likely be the end of the summer, possibly even as late as the end of September. Some will decide to take a break from all gaming and unsub for a few months, some will cut back on their hours played, some will move to other games, some will keep at it pretty much as they have been. Already we have quite a few who have jumped to other games like Final Fantasy and HotS.

I will probably do a combination of things. I usually like having some time to concentrate on alts, and Legion is no exception. But probably for the first time in my WoW experience, I am genuinely tired of my hunter. I really feel like Blizz has sucked all the fun out of my spec, left it with only a grim routine of mashing buttons on cooldown and once in a while throwing out a cc. This thought resonated with me when I was playing my mage over the weekend — I was getting a real kick out of the chained procs and deciding how best to employ them. There is just nothing to compare with that for BM hunter. (And so far it does not seem Blizz has any interest in improving the spec for BfA — they have remained almost completely silent on any planned changes, beyond the iffy new pet abilities, that would add interest to it.) Yes, I still have an emotional attachment to the hunter class, and it seems unlikely I will ever main another class, but after a year and a half of mind-numbingly boring play, I am ready for something with a little more pizzazz. At least for a few months.

I know one thing I will not do, and that is level up another character. If I decide to roll another of the allied races, I will definitely use my boost on it. Leveling is another of those game things Blizz has ruined for me.

I will happily cut back on my game hours played, enjoying the mental freedom that comes from not having to gear up a main for raiding. And when logged in, I will do things like pick herbs or futz around with some underdeveloped professions, do some transmogging, knock out a few of the achievements I am interested in, maybe explore some other servers. I am truly looking forward to having nothing pressing to do in the game. (I just wish I could have this free attitude all the time in the game. My own mental prison, I suppose…)

Before Legion I did try my hand at a couple of other MMOs (Final Fantasy XIV, Elder Scrolls Online, and even Wildstar 🤫.) For some reason they did not engage me the way WoW always has, and I ended up dropping them after a couple of months. Certainly I did not get to whatever constituted end game play for them, and that might have colored my impressions, but I just could not get immersed in them. (And yes, I am hampered by the fact that I am a Mac user and I do not want to use Boot Camp, don’t judge!) I am much more likely to play non-MMOs like one of the Civs or Master of Orion or even Sims.

Anyway, it is spring, all evidence to the contrary, and summer is not far behind. I intend to enjoy a long lazy game summer doing whatever the hell I want, leaving behind the (self-induced) pressure to grind for AP and legendaries and other gear and rep and class hall quest lines, and any of the long list of grinds Legion thrust upon us.

Now if you will pardon me, I have to go shovel some “spring” from my driveway.